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June in Buffalo: Marking 40 years and still at forefront of new music

World-famous violinist Irvine Arditti rehearses at June in Buffalo in 2010. He will be returning this year for the festival and conference's 40th anniversary. Photo: Irene Haupt

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published May 21, 2015

June in Buffalo, the region’s signature event for new music, will mark its 40th anniversary this year by bringing some of the greatest minds in contemporary classical music composition and performance to Western New York.

The event, part conference and part festival, was founded in 1975 by composer and UB faculty member Morton Feldman. In an era of intense cultural creativity, it helped solidify Buffalo’s standing as one of the nation’s most celebrated centers for contemporary music.

This year’s lineup includes 16 concerts and recitals that are open to the public from May 29 to June 7.

Performances will range from intimate solo recitals by world-famous violinist Irvine Arditti on UB’s North Campus and influential composer, conductor and flutist Harvey Sollberger at Pausa Art House in Buffalo, to a performance by the New York New Music Ensemble of “New York Notes,” a work by MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Wuorinen, one of several internationally recognized composers who will attend.

Brad Lubman conducts Ensemble Signal in a performance at June in Buffalo 2010. Both Lubman and Ensemble Signal return to the festival this year. Photo: Irene Haupt

This year’s June in Buffalo is special because it marks not only the 40th anniversary of the festival, but also 30 years of leadership by artistic director David Felder, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Birge-Cary Professor in Music Composition and director of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music at UB. Felder began organizing the festival and conference in 1985-6.

Under his watch, June in Buffalo has become one of the most influential events of its kind in the world.

Presented by the Department of Music and The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, it’s much more than a traditional festival.

During the day, master classes, lectures and workshops give emerging composers the chance to learn about the art of making music from some of the best in their profession — including, this year, four Pulitzer Prize winners: Wuorinen, Bernard Rands, Steven Stucky and Roger Reynolds. Afternoons and evenings feature spectacular performances of contemporary music, including works by the senior composers invited to teach and mentor at the festival.

The music is, as it has been for 40 years, at the vanguard: June in Buffalo is recognized for pushing the boundaries of music — for celebrating new works that defy conventions in superb performances.

The highlights of this year’s public concerts, for instance, include a performance of “Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux,” Felder’s masterwork for two solo voices, electronics and a 35-piece orchestra composed of Ensemble Signal and members of the Slee Sinfonietta, UB’s professional chamber orchestra.

“Over the course of these 30 years, we have nurtured and challenged several generations of younger composers, with over 700 participants since 1985-6, and offered world-class performances of the very best in contemporary music to Western New York audiences. We are grateful for the support of so many wonderful artists, institutions and individual supporters who have made this unique event possible,” said Felder, who is recognized as a leader in his generation of American composers.

In addition to Felder and the four Pulitzer winners, senior composers who will be helping to lead this year’s events include Martin Bresnick, a highly influential teacher at the Yale School of Music; Brian Ferneyhough, winner of the Siemens Music Prize for lifetime achievement; Sollberger; and Pulitzer finalist Augusta Read Thomas.

To complement the conference and festival dedicated to composers, organizers this year also will be hosting the June in Buffalo Performance Institute, inviting performers with an interest in contemporary music to take part in concerts, master classes, lessons and seminars.